Tag Archives: short stories

Author. Wise woman. Goddess

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For most people, when the year date changes a new year begins. They look forward to new beginnings, better luck and a change for the better.

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My new year began at the winter solstice and I welcomed in the light. Every day gets a tiny bit longer even though the wintry weather is only just taking hold and I look forward to waking to that light and the rebirth of spring.

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The title of this blog is the title of my website but both could be replaced by ‘Me’. ‘Author’ is the easy bit. Under ‘Wise woman’ is my spirituality, teaching dance and healing but all those descriptions would fit into the ‘Goddess’ side as well. ‘Goddess’ is my personal journey, my family and my partner.

My plans are underway for the first two terms of teaching dance this year, including three workshops for my ladies, structuring my lessons to give them the best tuition and support I can. We’re going to dance more and perform less, bringing dancing to drums into our lessons and music that inspires.

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Collaboration has begun with my good friend, Peter Jones (writer, speaker, actor), to publish my first WitchLit novel ‘The Naked Witch’ and I’m excited *happy dance* Work on the next book ‘The Orphan Witch’ is underway.

Kind folk have been sharing my Youtube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon, also the name of my publishing company, where I read my WitchLit short stories and I’m thrilled. Being able to deliver my stories through such a powerful medium is a privilege and I’m looking forward to telling more stories as the seasons change on our Welsh riverbank.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA

The announcement of the Literature of Wales bursary is in February. If successful, my work will focus on writing the third book in the Lilith Trilogy ‘Angel and Demons’. (Now you know why I’ve needed to make plans early!)

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The past year has been hard work but memorable. Author, wise woman and goddess finally merged together in my mind, showering me with ideas and possibilities. I’ve surprised myself in many ways. Out of these surprises has come confidence but also fear so this year, to redress the balance, the goddess will be embraced. My personal spiritual journey will come higher up the priorities.

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And I started 2017 with a sale on my pixie coats! My dad worked for Horne Brothers, Men’s Outfitting. He could tell your collar size just by looking at you. He always maintained that Horne Brothers had a proper sale, discounting the stock in the shop while other, less creditable sellers in his opinion, brought it ‘rubbish’ for their sales. ALL pixie coats, short or long length, are on sale at £25 with free postage to the UK. Dad would have called it a proper sale.

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I wish you all Bright Blessings for the coming year xx  Share the love and spread warmheartedness wherever you are xx

 

 

Tales from Pan’s Grotto

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wales-2014-058This past year, I’ve been writing and submitting short stories. Having had over a quarter of them published online and in anthologies, I decided to start my own Youtube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon, and read to you the WitchLit stories emerging from my pen right now. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA

I began at Samhain with a slightly longer story, Granny Hickson’s Blessings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjBDk9eogZQ

This week’s story is called Lucky and is perfect for a tea break viewing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNRDQMuBv3U

If you enjoy the stories, please like, share and subscribe to the channel.

Bright Blessings xx

 

Summer of writing

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In June, I joined a new group on Facebook, asking for short stories for an anthology. As you may know, I put myself on a one year course from September last year, to explore short stories again and after attending a great workshop by Rosie Dub of Honno Press, I had my first one accepted for publication in an anthology. I’ve had a lot more since then and have enjoyed honing the skill of writing a cracking short story so, I was intrigued by this new ‘shout out’ as the genre was Witch Lit. New to you? I’m a writer and I hadn’t heard of it so I had a think and came up with a definition of my own and wrote my first Witch Lit short story called Last Chance for Love.

A publisher had shown interest in putting an anthology of Witchlit stories together in lieu of publishing Witchlit novels. We shared our stories on the group offering help and advice and so, with this support behind me, I decided to write a Witchlit novel.

My first attempt was not good. I tried to change my writing style so it was a clunky, clumsy read and the storyline was too vague. 10k words in, I gave up…and broke my toe. This was it, I had no excuse not to write and with a big pad of paper and my trust fountain pen, I scribbled ideas and drew circles, linking ideas together until one jumped out at me and I began to write.

Today, I’ve written two thirds of the book and with a week off next week, I’m looking forward to completing it.

So what did I choose as my definition of Witchlit?

Chick Lit is a genre of fiction which consists of heroine-centred narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists. These women live in a modern world, coping with work and home life and the genre often uses lightheartedness and humour.

My Witchlit novel’s protagonist is Lizzie Martin, who lives in Romford with her thirteen year old daughter Rowan, works as a receptionist and typist. She clothes herself from the charity shops in vibrant, joyful colours with matching headbands she makes herself, attempting to hold at bay the emotional angst of an ex-husband whose girlfriend is barely out of her teens, a mother with the sensitivity of a crocodile and the big bad world from which she tries to protect her daughter. Colour is Lizzie’s armour. On her thirty eighth birthday, she is requested to bare all. There is hope though. At the bottom of the garden is a little wooden shed that Lizzie calls Sanctuary. Behind the oak and rowan trees, within its warm and welcoming walls, Lizzie surrounds herself with magic…one day, a candle spell or another, a conversation with a goddess. She consults her Tarot cards and some day, she will paint in that shed.

This month I also published the third book in the Standing Stone Series – The Gathering. Linked together across space and time, Rachel, Candy and Fern each work towards ‘a gathering’ of their own, guided by the goddess Rhiannon.

The Gathering - SMALL(1)You can buy all my books via my author pages at

http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1365459567&sr=1-2-ent

I do hope you’re enjoying the Standing Stone Series…just wait for book five! This young man seems to be enjoying it. I spotted him at a Steampunk event we were dancing at and asked if I could have a photo.

DSC_0284 At this same event, I bought myself a present…I know it’s a children’s book but it’s beautiful. DSC_0285

Research is still ongoing with the third book in the Lilith Trilogy, Angels and Demons…I save it for rainy days I can spend in the library. I’ve written fewer short stories this month, only managing to submit one so far but there are only so many hours in the day.

I would love to hear your thoughts about Witch Lit. I love the idea of a light hearted, fun read where I can empathise with a protagonist but laugh with her too and know all along, that she’s a Hedge Witch like me.

 

Night at the museum

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A news headline caught my eye yesterday. This image leapt straight into my mind…

News Flash
“It came off in me ‘and, guv.”
They looked at the artefact grasped in Brian’s pudgie fingers.
The foreman’s face travelled through pink and red to magenta.
“I’ll fix it, no worries. Me mam says I is good at fixing.”

Arnie and Pete restrained the foreman by the arms while Ian and Baz dug deep into their pockets.
They all chewed. And chewed.
The night foreman, after forty years of service to night security at the museum, was looking forward to a golden hand shake and a peaceful retirement. There was only fifteen minutes before the day staff arrived. His dentures chewed as well.

Mission accomplished, Arnie and Pete, helped the weeping foreman towards the door while Ian and Baz steered Brian towards the exit.
“I fink the king would be amused.”
“Yes, Brian.”
“Wiv a name like ‘Toot an’ come in’, I reckon ‘e would be right up for a bubble gum beard.”

Short story: Scratching the surface

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As soon as I saw the theme for this submission, the idea for a story came to me. I didn’t manage to finish it by the deadline but here it is for you to read and enjoy.

Scratching the surface

John2 and Matthew9 checked the control panels, acknowledging their accord with a time honoured thumbs up. John2 pressed the ascent button and the small metal craft rose slowly through the cold, dark water. Matthew9 turned on the forward lights, illuminating the ring of identical craft, rising towards the surface.

Inside his glass helmet, John2 sweated, his greying dreadlocks prickling his neck. A few months left, that was all he had, until one final year on supervisory, equipment check and personnel before returning to his family. He chuckled at Matthew9’s eager face, pressed to his helmet, watching the light beams of forty nine mining craft. And they weren’t the only team. Three identical details rose with them at five mile intervals and each drill point had three craft, rising and falling, never stopping like determined spiders on a home spun thread.

Matthew9 pointed as he switched on the top beam of the craft, locating the tunnelling entrance, twenty metres above them. John2 flicked to manual control and edged their nose into the gaping mouth. The path of the ice tunnel zigzagged, forward fifty metres then vertical for fifty, until they reached the orange marker buoy. John2 plunged the drill into the ice. Green lights rose on the dashboard and he applied power to the thrusters and the drill bit began its work. The time clock was started and John2 sat back in his worn, patched chair, feeling the rhythm of the engine through his body.

Rock chunks in the ice were their enemy. At best, they could return to base with a damaged drill bit, while worst scenarios involving the drill being ripped away, allowing the weight and pressure of the ocean to consume them, were the real worry. In the thirty years since Galaxy Sea Base began operating, almost a thousand personnel had lost their lives to the water. Safety had improved. Sea Base Metals Inc were synthesising knew craft with stronger hulls and more durable bits but still people died. The world may have had one hundred years to build a world beneath the ocean but in John2’s opinion, they hadn’t thought about the little things. Even with freezing temperatures, sending the world into chaos, he remembered the history he had learned at school, of the millions of ordinary people who were commanded to sacrifice themselves by so few.

But John2 knew his job. This was his second ten year work placement on the drills and, with any luck, his last. Blinking sweat from his pale blue eyes, he remembered Sarah’s words as she held him, almost nine years ago.
“You’re nearly there, John. Galaxy played a statement over the base. One more year, that’s all so you make damn sure to keep your eyes open. They’re sending unmanned craft to break the surface.”
She’d been so sure, his Sarah. Images of his wife, nursing their children and lying naked beside him in bed brought a familiar lump to his throat. Weekly five minute links were no time to tell her how he felt about her, no time to extract from the emotional chaos in his head, the appropriate words of solace for Sarah. For seven years he’d been with her, first bringing his son into a synthetically aired underwater world and two years later, his twin daughters. And then his work was called in a second time. Sarah’s tears wetted his cheeks every night. Sarah was right. This was the final detail.

Two circuits of the time clock completed, they plugged into the feeding station, switching on their comms as they relaxed.
“So you volunteered for this caper?”
“’Course man!” Matthew9 laughed, his big black face crinkling with delight. “I knows the score, man. My brother on the inside, he tells me ‘Get your ass on a drilling detail and start life on land with a million!’ We’re nearly there! I’m gonna be rich!”
John2 smiled and nodded. Twenty nine years of being told they were nearly there made him do that. The company were always promising a million to the craft that cleared the final stretch to the surface.
A tremor ran through his seat. Focussed on his dashboard, he checked the instruments for discrepancies in the settings. Thrusters were on full but forward motion had stopped. Heat sensors on the bit were high but not critical. Was it rock or something else stopping them proceeding?
“We got problems?”
“Not sure.”
“We drilling rock?”
“Could be but there’s no debris being thrown back. Look.”
Matthew9 turned the craft’s side lights up, illuminating the trail of slush sluicing past their rear.
“If there was rock in it, you’d hear it and feel it as it went by, don’t worry.”
“I’m cool if you are, man.”
John2 smiled. “I’m cool.”

The third circuit of the time clock was almost complete and the bit had sped up as it carved its way through the dark matter. Ice continued to flush past the craft and yet John2 knew with a certainty that alarmed him that he was no longer drilling through frozen water.
The pointer on the time clock showed one more circuit before descent and John2 was glad. His gauges showed him the temperature outside the craft was getting colder, even though the drill bit was heating up. Taking the bit speed down a few notches sent the craft juddering so he gave up on that idea to cool the bit and resigned himself to studying his dashboard.
Twice Matthew9 boosted power to the lighting but a dark, eerie gloom fell on the cabin. John2 typed into the crafts log his actions in the second circuit and the readings from his dashboard until the vessel began to shake and he turned back to his dials. Before his gloved hand reached a single switch, the drill stopped and the lights went out. Through the hatches they saw nothing in the inky blackness.
“What happened?”
“I don’t know, Matt. We’ve no thrusters, yet we’re maintaining position. Try the comms to MC14.”
“No response. I’ll try a general.”
John2 unbuckled himself from his seat, feeling his way to the back of the craft. From a metal cupboard at head height he brought out two torches.
“They’re not responding, John. What the fuck’s going on?”
John2 switched on one of the torches, clipping it to the control panel, illuminating the water around the drill but he couldn’t see if the bit was embedded in the ice or they were floating free.
He turned to Matthew9 and spoke, ignoring the tears streaming down the big man’s face. “I’m going to check the boards, find out if there’s a loose connection to our thrusters but I need you to get on the emergency band and contact base.”
Matthew9 tried to nod but crumpled in his seat.
“I need you, Matt, do you hear me? I need you to contact base. You can do it. Assemble our co-ordinates and set it on repeat, okay?”

John2 grabbed the other torch and stumbled out of the cabin into the power room. He strapped the torch to a hand rail before working through the circuit boards systematically.
Nineteen years, scratching the surface. As his work brain checked for faults, he allowed his mind to wander and he knew. With the birth of hope came a future and that was what Galaxy Sea Base fed the populace. Hope for a future on land, beneath a warm benevolent sun. If one had hope, giving up ten years of your life for the future of mankind was a much easier task to adhere to. John2 sighed as he prised off another panel, inspecting the tubes and wires beneath the light from the torch. He remembered life upon the earth and the climate was untrustworthy. He had always kept to himself his biggest fear, that they would break through the surface to find an ecological disaster and a planet that no human being could live on. No one else need bear the weight of his personal horror.
He continued checking the panels as he thought back to the years before the freeze and how he, sixteen years old, bright, fit and naïve had been granted a place on the base, without his parents. It had been a lottery, of course, and though his parents had not been eligible for entry, they had insisted he take part. As he’d boarded the coach to the port, the news reported increased meteor strikes, unprecedented volcanic activity and rain pounded the windows so the last time he saw his parents, they were a murky blur through the glass. None of the panels showed any fault so he hauled himself back into the cabin.
“I sent our co-ordinates, John. Do you think they’ll find us?”
“Maybe but the next crew will be along to take our place, won’t they? If nothing else, we can attach a tow and they can get us back before they start their shift.”
Matthew9 nodded. His eyes were red and his broad bottom lip trembled but he tried a smile. “So, what we gonna do now?”
“I think we should try and find out what stopped the drill. We’ve enough juice to operate the grabber on manual.”

Matthew9 shone the torch towards the bit as the arm unfolded itself from the mining craft and stretched towards the nose. Once at full extension, John2 closed the grip and brought the hand round to the dumping hatch above them. With the torch clipped back on the dashboard, Matthew9 opened the hatch with the manual wheel and John2 released the grip as Matthew9 turned the wheel the other way.
“You reckon we got it?” Sweat dripped into Matthew9’s eyes as he turned the final rotations.
John2 checked the dashboard. “Dumping hatch box is still showing below freezing. We could be in luck.”
Half the final time circuit had been completed by the time the box was moved from the dumping hatch to the analysis compartment and as the computer tested their haul, John2 and Matthew9 examined the contents on magnified visual on the main screen.
“There’s rock.”
“Very little more than usual. No, I’m interested in the ice. There’s great chunks, look, with rock fragments still attached.”
“What does it mean, John? Are we near the surface?”
John2 stared at the printout, spewed from the computer.
“John?”
John2 laughed and then shook his head at the bewildered boy, wide eyed with fear in front of him. “It’s okay, Matt. I know what this is.”
“You do?”
“You know any earth geology?”
Matthew9 shook his head.
“Do you know what diamonds are?”
“No, man. What you on about?”
But the laughter had John2 in its grasp and great belly laughs escaped from him as he hugged his sides. He was rich! They were rich! If they weren’t floating powerless beneath miles of ice, he’d be a happy man.
John2 wiped his eyes and grinned. “Diamonds are rare minerals, found deep in the earth. They’re not created from coal, as you might imagine.”
“What’s coal?”
“Never mind but know that on earth diamonds were rare, valuable, often made into jewellery or used to decorate a royal crown and we’ve hit an enormous one, somehow, below the sea.”
“You mean, we’re rich?”
“It wouldn’t be us, Matt. It would be the company but what use are diamonds to us, in a world below the sea?”
“They’d be rarer still? Worth more?”
“Not if every craft on our detail has hit diamond. Don’t you see? This must be the biggest diamond ever dreamed of but with the market forces of demand and supply, assuming this diamond could be mined, its worth nothing.”
“Hard enough to stop our drill and worthless?”
“Its discovery will undoubtedly be useful to someone, but it will hold up progress to the surface.”

As the final quarter of the time circuit ticked by John2 updated his report, entering the findings of diamond in the ice. He glanced at the air reserve gauge before focusing his torch beam towards the nose. They were drifting, away from the ice, away from the tunnel entrance and without power, there was nothing he could do about it. Away from their rise point, it was unlikely another craft could locate them.

John2 sat shivering, Matthew9’s sobs echoing in his helmet. Like so many before him, John2 had given so much of his life to the company but while they drifted in darkness below the ice, he wondered at his own naivety. Diamond would be discovered in the water, probably from a zenolith, brought up from the earth’s mantel by a volcanic explosion but he doubted the benefits of such a find would reach the ordinary people on Galaxy Sea Base.
They breathed the last of the air in the craft. Matthew9 was unconscious and John2’s eyes began to close. His final thoughts were of his wife and children and a massive drill bit made of diamond, breaking through the ice into a world of sunshine, trees and new wonders. He smiled his knowing grin as, doubtless, this world too would be organised by those with money and power, to the detriment of the masses.

 

Sharing my story

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I’d expected to be boosted when summer arrived this year but both the weather and the reality were a let down. A gale still blew through the top of my old farmhouse and my novels and novellas weren’t being bought for holiday reading. On top of that, as I now teach dance in a studio on Lampeter University campus, I’m surrounded by students and they were excitedly signing up for new courses.

I’ll admit to a grumpy tearful few days before I had a word with myself and decided to embark on a year of learning that would be appropriate to my homelife and financial situation.

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I was already revisiting short story writing with a writing group The Cwrtnewydd Scribblers, in the next village but needed a boost, a challenge for myself to explore different writing styles and genres. I mentioned this to one of my dancing ladies who had just signed up for an MA in creative writing (having already published her own short stories) and she introduced me to Duotrope. For £3 per month, they provide access to online and paper magazines requesting short stories as well as writing competitions. I decided to invest in myself and dedicate two days each week to writing, editing and submitting short stories.

Some magazines pay a little but most don’t and this bothered me at first. Would my stories be appreciated if they were given for free? What does that say about me as a writer if monetary gain is not important? It means that the reason I write, is to share my stories. Yes, I do want my work to have value and worth but if I share and readers enjoy my stories, that makes me happy. I hope that readers who enjoy a short story will look for more of my work.

My plan was to have ten short stories ‘out there’ at any one time. I started with stories already written and wasted a lot of time with ‘searches’ as they were not genre specific enough so I began writing for requested submissions. Duotrope send a weekly email with useful listings and this is what I work from.

It took two months to achieve my ten story goal and in days I was back to eight so I don’t worry about it any more. Some days I write three stories, other days just one. It doesn’t matter. Every story I write is honing my skills.

I’ve explored horror and fantasy these past months and love the stories produced. A few weeks ago, I attended an afternoon writing workshop about the role of myth, legends and fairy tales in story and began exploring new angles and new ideas in my own writing. As a writer of magical realism, stories about real people, real magic, gods and goddesses, I revisited stories I loved as a child as well as reading legends and myths I was not familiar with.

This week, I had my first short story accepted for publication. I’m looking forward to sharing many more.